Dying for education

October 17, 2012

Waitaki Girls’ High School celebrates its 125th anniversary today.

It is, I think, the fifth oldest girls’ secondary school in New Zealand.

Otago Girls’ High was the first girls’ secondary school in the country, opening in 1871. Christchurch Girls’ opened in 1877, Nelson Girls’ College in 1883, New Plymouth Girls’ in 1885 and Waitaki opened in 1887.

Secondary education for girls wasn’t considered necessary back then.

The Honour of Her Name, The Story of Waitaki Girls’ High School, 1887 – 1987  begins:

It was assumed that a girl would marry and if she could cook, sew, rear children and keep her husband happy, no more was required of her. Elementary education would have given her skills in reading, writing and numbering sufficient to carry her through life and she might not even make use of them. . .

The idea that girls don’t need education thankfully belongs to history here but that is not so in all other parts of the world.
There are still some places where education for girls isn’t considered necessary and others where it can be dangerous.
Fourteen year-old Malala Yousufzai, is recovering in a British hospital after being shot by the Taliban last week.

Malala was flown from Pakistan, via the United Arab Emirates in an air ambulance, a week after she and two other schoolgirls were attacked as they returned home from school in Mingora in the Swat valley.

She became widely known as a campaigner for girls’ education in Pakistan after writing a diary for BBC Urdu about life under the Taliban, when they banned girls from attending school.

The National Youth Assembly has appealed to the government to nominate appealed the government to nominate Malala for a Nobel Peace Prize.
“As an international symbol of freedom, peace and education, she deserves the most for this prestigious award,” said NYA President Hanan Ali Abbasi while talking to Agency here on Monday.

“Malala, also a member of the NYA, is the most precious asset of the NYA and “we have launched a global campaign on social media for her justifiable projection and right,” informed Hanan. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon, in a statement and a message to the world said, “Malala is a role model not only for your country, but for our world,” adding that education was a fundamental right for everybody.”

The people who worked so hard for the right for girls to be educated here more than 100 years ago would no doubt be delighted with the opportunities they have today.
We should be grateful to the pioneers and also mindful that access to education still isn’t universal. Some girls still risk dying for education.

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